Thursday, January 12, 2012

Heavy on the Parmesan

Sweetie returned home from playing racquetball with a sore knee. I suspect that the injury he did last spring weakened the ligaments on that knee so that it is easier to re-injure it. Fortunately he didn't tough it out and keep playing, so once he had taken a shower it was better and then I was able to massage the knee, leg and ankle to help it feel better. He is still going to go easy on it for a few days but at least he isn't limping now.

Unexpected massage sessions like that can throw off the dinner plans a bit so I threw together a baked pasta dish instead of the slow braised dish I was going to make. He liked it so well that he asked me to make sure I wrote it down so that I can make it again. I must admit, it turned out well for a recipe that was made up on the spot. It contains leftover roast chicken, some broccoli and green peas, red and yellow peppers, carrots, green onions, whole grain penne pasta, herbs and a sauce with lots and lots of Parmesan cheese. It would be a fine dish without the Parmesan, but that full flavored cheese takes it to memorable.

Although there is 1/4 cup of fat between the olive oil and the margarine, it serves 4 generously, so that comes out to 1 tablespoon per person. I used non-fat evaporated milk and chicken broth for the liquid and thickened the sauce with all-purpose flour. I think the part I like the best was the mix of vegetables both for taste and because the mix of green, red, orange and yellow was lovely to look at.

You could serve this right from the pot instead of baking it but I find that the contrast between the creamy sauce and the chewy baked cheese is really nice.
Don't save this one for a time when you have less time than you thought to make the meal. It really will be appreciated even if you never twist your knee.

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Parmesan

1/2 lb penne pasta (I used whole wheat penne)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup carrots, chopped
2 green onions, sliced, white part only

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup non-fat evaporated milk
1 cup chicken broth
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 cups cubed or chopped cooked chicken
1 cup broccoli florettes
1/2 cup peas (I used frozen peas)
2- 3 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the penne, stir, and boil until al dente', about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While pasta is cooking prepare the sauce: In a saucepan heat the olive oil and butter or margarine over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, carrots and green onions and cook, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the veggies from the oil, keeping as much oil as possible in the pot. Set the veggies aside.

Sprinkle the flour over the oil and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Cook, stirring once or twice, over medium-high heat for 1 minutes to cook the flour a bit.
In a bowl, while the flour is cooking in the pot, stir together the milk and broth. Season with the pepper. With a whisk at hand, pour all of the liquid into the flour mixture and immediately whisk to combine thoroughly. Continue to stir with the whisk while the liquid thickens. Mixture will begin to bubble slightly once it has thickened. Add the 1/2 cup Parmesan and whisk to combine. Stir in the bell pepper/onion/carrot mixture to combine. Taste for seasonings and add more pepper or herbs if needed. With all that Parmesan it is unlikely you will need more salt.

Place plastic wrap directly on the top of the sauce. Set aside.

Heat the broccoli, peas and chicken in the microwave 1 minute, just to warm them.

In the pot you used to cook the pasta mix the penne, chicken, broccoli, peas and sauce. Stir with the wooden spoon to thoroughly combine. If not baking the dish you can serve it now.

If baking it, spread the mixture in a 9 x 13-inch shallow pan and sprinkle with the 2-3 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes with the shelf being toward the top of the oven. If the cheese doesn't brown at all by then, use the broiler briefly to brown some of the cheese. Serve at once.
Serves 4 - 6.

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